Monday, July 20, 2009


At the scene of my son's auto accident, the police asked whom I wanted to tow the wrecked truck. I gave them a name.

They could not reach my preferred wrecker service. They called another wrecker service who lived a mile from the scene.

The following day, I visited Ken's Wrecker Service. I said, "How much do I owe you?"



An expensive tow is $75. But, an economist understands that Ken was called out by the police and, as I stood there digesting that price, he had already performed the service, so I had no bargaining power. I would have bargaining power if I were stuck on the side of the road, calling different wrecker services.


I replied, "Impressive!"

He didn't know what to say.

Later, as my wife and I were looking for her cell phone in the car, calling it with another cell phone, Ken hemmed and hawed about how he had cleaned up the glass and had spread sand over the oil slick.

Yeah--I had watched Ken's labors. Some glass dust was on the road. Every window and windshield unbroken, but the front windshield was cracked, leaving the dust. The entire operation took him a minute.

But an economist understands absolute monopoly power, so I did not argue. It was nothing personal on Ken's part. It was business. He had me. He used all the power he had.

Since the month-old transmission had significant resale value, I needed the truck towed to my mechanic.

Ken did not get that job. Another wrecker service towed the truck from Ken's yard to my mechanic.

Nothing personal. Just business.

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